Building connections is important regardless of your industry, position, or tenure. Simply put, it’s hard to get anywhere in life without the help of others. Going at it alone can only do so much; you’ll still have to rely on external help and guidance at some point if you really want to succeed and exceed your expectations on yourself.
This is especially true in your business or professional career. As such, it’s highly important to look at the significance of connections and knowing who you should pursue (and avoid) in building them.
In a nutshell, connections provide opportunities to learn, grow, and become a more accomplished person, as well as a chance to give back to others and your community. These connections lead to additional beneficial relationships, fuelling your growth as a business person or professional. However, please remember that, when seeking connections, your mindset shouldn’t be one that’s just about financial gain. Growing your financial capability and making that your sole purpose will lead to negatives such as unrealistic expectations and shallow, unauthentic connections that may bring more harm than good.
Not everyone is an extrovert and comfortable in networking and approaching strangers. There are many ways to connect and channels you can use, even if you’re shy and uncomfortable with networking.
For example, you can employ the power of social media networks like LinkedIn which has 4.2 million active Australian users. Being active on LinkedIn will raise your profile and help get you noticed. Offline, you could try getting involved in work, community, or industry groups where there’s a good chance you’ll meet interesting, like-minded individuals who not only share your values but also could offer guidance in your own career. As a businesswoman you can also choose to attend female-only networking events if you feel more comfortable interacting with fellow women and in a space that nurtures collaboration. Find something that works with your schedule, and try coming up with your own communication strategy, such as having your own elevator pitch. You also need to have an objective that you want to achieve when attending each event such as to gain a meaningful connection or business opportunity.
Which Connections Matter?
Finding people you want to connect with is much easier than thinking about who to avoid. Start by connecting with people who interest you and represent the values you want to embody. Australian entrepreneur and brand ambassador Jennifer Hawkins said, “Loyalty, kindness and compassion are very important in friendship and business partnerships. I like to think I have those qualities, too.” When you decide you want to hear what people say and their story, you’ll have a much more genuine connection. Experience is also an important factor. When someone has accomplished or experienced much, they have a great story to tell. You’ll appreciate and even learn from what they have to say.
Who to Welcome
Knowing who you should connect with comes down to your goals not only for your business or profession but also for yourself. For example, connecting with recruiters (head hunters) makes sense if you are seeking career opportunities, while meeting key industry stakeholders and personalities is beneficial if you’re trying to learn the ins and outs of your industry. Thus, your connection strategy may change depending on what you want to achieve. Whatever it is that you need help with, focus on how a potential connection can help you meet your goal. This helps keep you organised in your interactions as well.
At the core of any strategy is, of course, a common denominator you share with the persons you want to build a connection with. You’ve only got so much time and attention to give so pursue connections proactively but efficiently.
Find people who not only have the same values as you, but also encourage you to improve and extend yourself. You could also surround yourself with different kinds of people who share the same values to give you an idea of how to interact and speak with individuals with different personalities. Diversity in connections is important since, as you go along in your career, you’ll have to deal with all sorts of people on your way to success.
Knowledge in a particular field you want to excel in is also another factor you should consider. People who have knowledge and experience know what it takes to succeed in their own industry and, if you connect with them, you could be the recipient of invaluable knowledge that will give you a competitive edge compared to others who ignore the value of connections. This is why industry experts, speakers, and recognised alumni are sought after, and having them in your circles gives your own profile added credence.
Ultimately, the best connections are those that are mutually beneficial. For instance, a writer may provide a guest post on another company’s blog through a connection. The writer gets more name recognition and the company gets quality content. You could also trade expertise with a connection, enhancing both parties’ skills in the process. The important thing is that it shouldn’t be one-sided.
Who not to Pursue
On the other side of the spectrum, you should also know who you should not pursue. This is not to say you dislike them but, in the long run, there are connections that won’t give you any value and could even lead to poor relationships and you being taken advantage of. Watch out for red flags, such as negativity. People who are very negative and talk bad of others shouldn’t be pursued as they can demotivate you and affect how you interact with others. You don’t need that kind of toxic energy in your life. Red flags include if you get the sense a person isn’t being truthful. Honesty, in your career, business, or personal life, should be top priority. Trust your gut feel.
Stay clear of those who don’t support your own success. Remember, everyone’s in their own pursuit of happiness and success; you don’t need to feel guilty about achieving it, and you don’t have to explain yourself. Also, these people bring little in terms of encouragement, which is something we all need at different times.
Reputation matters so be protective of yours. If there’s anyone in your network, group, or business who clearly has a questionable reputation and an attitude to match it, it’s probably good to not associate yourself with them. Think things through first since connecting with someone with little or no integrity may reflect poorly on you, affecting your business or professional life.
Last but not the least, be wary of “fake personalities”. As previously mentioned, honesty is important. They may act positively in front of you but, in the background, spread rumours for their own personal gain, affecting your own growth and how others perceive you, which is important since we are our own brands.
Where to Start
There’s much to learn about being connected, and much to be said about its importance. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, has this to say, “Leaders need to find that place of wisdom, strength, and real connection (with themselves and others) and they need to lead from that place. Only from that place they can truly create miracles and change the world.” As with many things in life, building the right connections takes practice and patience but, as long as you have the right motivation, values and mindset, there’s every reason you will be successful.
Want to get started on finding the right connections? We at Behind Closed Doors nurture and cultivate the kind of environment business and career women need to find and build connections for true business and professional development. We value working together and have the mentorship, networking, and resources to extend women further to ensure their continued success.
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